Cyber in the Biden administration’s latest emergency funding request
Martin Matishak March 3, 2022

Cyber in the Biden administration’s latest emergency funding request

Cyber in the Biden administration’s latest emergency funding request

A White House request for $32.5 billion in emergency funding to counter Covid-19 and support Ukraine in its war against Russia would devote millions to a legion of cybersecurity efforts throughout the federal government.

The Biden administration has asked Congress to quickly approve the request, which would provide $10 billion in immediate emergency aid to bolster Ukraine and $22.5 billion for Covid antiviral treatments, funding testing and vaccination, according to the new appeal sent to Capitol Hill from the Office of Management and Budget.

The request comes as congressional lawmakers try to hammer out a deal to fund the government before a March 11 deadline. It remains to be seen if negotiators will be able to reach a long-term deal to keep the government open and respond to both crises.

“I urge the Congress to address these critical and urgent needs as part of a comprehensive government funding bill ahead of the March 11th funding deadline,” OMB acting Director Shalanda Young urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other top Democrats in letters dated March 2.

The emergency request would give the Defense Department $1.25 billion to support “operational surges across multiple national defense components, including accelerated cyber capabilities, weapons systems upgrades, increased intelligence support, and classified programs,” the request states, noting additional details are available at a “higher classification.”

In particular, the request would bequeath $214 million to the Air Force for cybersecurity and “weapon systems upgrades required for the European theater of operations,” including classified programs. It would also provide about $144 million to the Pentagon, Air Force and Navy for artificial intelligence-algorithm development, cybersecurity and other information technology requirements.

Another $30 million would be provided to the Energy Department to help shore up Ukraine’s electric grid in order to “leverage the expertise in the National Laboratory system to aid in modeling and analytics, cybersecurity, synchronization, and other assistance.”

In December 2015, a digital attack that has since been attributed to the notorious Russian hacking group known as Sandworm left thousands of Ukrainians without power for hours amid freezing temperatures. Officials and outside experts have warned that Moscow could knock out Ukraine’s infrastructure again as its forces push into the former Soviet satellite state. 

Another $40.2 million in the request would go toward bolstering “cyber, counterintelligence, and cryptocurrency tools” at the FBI, according to OMB. The administration also asked for $28 million to beef up the bureau’s “investigative and operational response to cyber threats stemming from the Russia threat and war on Ukraine.”

“Funding includes Computer Analysis Response Team exploitation operations, hardware and software improvements, contract linguists, and temporary duty (TDY) travel costs and overtime costs for personnel surge support,” OMB’s letter states.

In addition, $10.8 million would go to various Justice Department divisions to ongoing task force efforts to arrest “sanction evaders and cyber-criminals.”

The Treasury Department would receive $17 million that would, in part, pay for cybersecurity enhancements to protect the agency’s systems from targeted attacks.

Martin is a senior cybersecurity reporter for The Record. He spent the last five years at Politico, where he covered Congress, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community and was a driving force behind the publication's cybersecurity newsletter.